Financial Decision Making
Making any sort of decision can sometimes be overwhelming. Some of the biggest decisions we’ll ever make in life have far-reaching consequences that affect us for a long time. And if these decisions have financial repercussions…shooooo. If I allowed myself, I’d easily pore over these numbers for days!
I am a thinker and planner by nature. Any time I need to work toward something significant, I prefer to organize my thoughts and come up with a plan to help reach my goal. When I need to make a critical decision, I tend to look at the scenario from every angle.
I like to think this allows me to be thoughtful and thorough in my decision making. Ideally, this makes me more effective in achieving my goals. After all, what’s the use in goal-setting without an action plan?
If you’re reading between the lines, you might pick up on my blatant attempt to justify what sometimes translates into plain ol’ overthinking. So how do we harness the power of thoughtful decision making (especially regarding our finances), without overcomplicating every move we make?
Be Curious Without Judgement
One of the kindest things you can do for yourself is be curious about your life. To me, this is an act of self-love. Look at your circumstances with detachment and see what your options are.
To be curious without judgement requires me to separate myself from how I want to be perceived, and look at pros and cons of various scenarios.
For example, I control the volume of work I accept. I sometimes find myself attached to different judgements when I am not working the maximum amount I can. These judgements can vary in appearance, but ultimately are one and the same: I am not doing enough.
When I am not working the maximum hours possible, or decline work, I can feel I am not financially contributing enough to my family. Other times I am worried I will be perceived as an inflexible employee by the various entities I work for. Still other times, I judge myself for not doing all I can to hit my own financial goals. Whoa. That’s a lot of people to let down.
Instead, I can get curious and acknowledge I have allowed my self-worth to be attached to a particular outcome. That acknowledgement allows me to separate myself from the single outcome I have honed in on. The outcome that seemingly pleases everyone (to accept every job I am offered), but practically, sounds awful. I can then look at my options a little more neutrally.
Consider Your Options (and Keep Your Eyes Open)
When I am curious, without judgement, the number of choices that become available is amazing. Without this curiosity, it is easy for me to get sucked into a single-track mindset, with blinders on. With this mindset, it is difficult to accurately consider all of my options.
To give more context (this is an actual example I am grappling with now), I have front-loaded the month of May with a ton of work. So far, I have scheduled a “light” end of May. If I do not make a conscious decision about this, I will end up filling up the rest of my month without a thought. I’d like to pause and act with intention on this, so no matter what I do, my choice is an educated one.
In the example above, where I am literally hustling for my worthiness (shout out to Brené Brown!), I have to ask myself, what are my options?
1. Accept any and all jobs offered:
- Pros– I make a ton of money, I contribute my absolute maximum (financially) to my family, I continue to satisfy my clients by being flexible and covering all the work they ask me to do, I exceed my financial goals
- Cons– I have no free time, I work odd hours, I contribute less of my time to my family, I risk burnout, I may not provide quality service to my clients if I am spread too thin, I’ve done this before and generally am unhappy working this much
2. Discern between jobs and only choose those that fit with my goals:
- Pros– I make some extra money, I can first decide what my goals are and base my work around them, I can contribute some to my family (both in time and work/financially), I can meet some of my own financial goals, I can practice flexibility, I can practice self-care, I will have some free time
- Cons– I will not make as much money, I will likely not be able to exceed my financial goals, I will have to find other ways to define my self-worth (than just making money), I will have to say no to some clients
3. Do not take any more work, other than what’s already booked on my calendar
- Pros– My schedule is fixed, I can make other plans, I can practice being bored, I can be content knowing I already scheduled what I needed to in order to hit my May target earnings, I can practice setting boundaries with work, I can decide that my self-care is my only priority for the last part of May
- Cons– I could be contributing more (financially) to my family, I will have to find something to do to fulfill myself other than work, I will not exceed my financial goals, I will say no to many clients
Stay Thoughtful and Thorough
After my options are laid out, I can review them thoughtfully and thoroughly. What is my priority? Work? Myself? Both? Do I understand all of the trade-off’s that come along with each option? Where do contentment and happiness fit into these options?
Make My Decision. And Then Let it Go.
Once the decision has been made, hunker down in your bunker with your support system, and ride it out. In the above case, I chose a combination of option 2 and 3. I will accept very few jobs in the upcoming weeks that suit my wants and schedule, but for the most part, I will decline all additional work until June.
If, throughout the month, I question my decision, I will turn to my support system to help remind me of the values I chose to prioritize. At times when I question myself, I literally say aloud, “No, you were thorough when you made this decision. You thought this through, and you can trust your decision.”
In this case, I asked myself what my priorities were, weighed the trade-off’s, and considered what would make me happy. I talked it over with my extremely supportive partner. Through this thoughtful and thorough process, I gleaned I am moving rapidly toward workaholic-ism (I may already be there). If I am not careful, life and work will just happen to me. It is up to me to pump the brakes if I feel I am not being an active participant in my life.
Say, instead, I chose option 1, and ended up second-guessing myself. If I found myself feeling overworked, I could review the pros and cons again, remembering that I thought this through, from every angle. I do not need to waste time wondering if I made the right choice. This was not an impulsive decision—it was thoughtful and thorough, and I can take comfort in that.
Most Importantly: Stay Flexible
June is a new month. I can review what I want my workload to look like then. Perhaps I will be refreshed and ready to veer toward option 1: Take any and all work. Maybe I’ll need to stay near option 2 or 3 and breathe in a little more of life. I will remain open and in touch with myself.
If instead, I’d chosen option 1, I could abort at any time. The only person I am promised to, is myself. If I decide I will be intentional and thoughtful about my life, I will rarely let myself down. Staying soft (rather than rigid) is the key to trusting the decision making process.
A friend of mine is unhappy with her job. She is disappointed and grieving, as this is a job she once loved. It’s slowly transformed into something unrecognizable. She is unsure if it serves her anymore.
Weighing the pros and cons of looking for other employment, or staying at her current job might be helpful. Uncovering other options (like going down to part-time, planning an exit strategy within a certain time frame, or creating a plan to avoid burnout while powering through) might provide some relief. Treading water, and making no decision, is exhausting.
We are contesting our property taxes. As this is our first year doing it, we reviewed all the comps and price-per-square-foot of our neighborhood. We are still unsure as to whether we could confidently get our property taxes reduced.
We weighed all of our options. Some of the options we came up with included trying to protest ourselves, forgoing the protest entirely, or hiring an outside agency to protest. Because this is unfamiliar territory, and we’ve exhausted all of the options we feel comfortable with, we chose option 3.
We decided to hire an outside agency to work on our behalf. If we win, their fee would be paid using 1/3 of our tax-bill savings. If we lose, they will charge nothing. In this same circumstance, another person may have chosen differently. However, we were thoughtful and thorough when considering our circumstances and are satisfied with our choice.
Decision Making is Hard
Decision making is not just about the actions you are taking, but also about the actions you aren’t taking. You can decide to work extra hours or invest your money (do something). You can also decide to work less hours or not upgrade your car (not do something).
There isn’t a right or wrong when it comes to our lives. However, a happy responsibility we all have to ourselves, is to be kind. Kind enough to be curious, thoughtful, thorough, and flexible, with all the things we choose to do and not do.
And then, we hunker down with our families and loved ones, and enjoy the ride. Financial decisions are extremely important, and should be considered thoughtfully. But after all, money isn’t everything.